Across the nation, in households that look to all intents and purposes completely normal, an arcane practice takes place at this time of year. Windowsills and work surfaces become home to rows of brown, dusty things. They stay there till their skin goes as soft and wrinkled as an elephant’s, and pale shoots sprout. Then someone makes tea, pours it into a tartan thermos flask, laces it with whisky and, taking the poor and somehow blind-looking creatures with them, heads off down to the allotment with a spade.

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